Reasons to eat locally grown produce

local produce

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Have you ever stopped to think of the benefits of eating locally grown foods?

There can be many benefits of eating locally grown foods. For many people, one of the first that comes to mind, and which can be related to other benefits, is freshness. Probably most people who have tried produce right out of the garden and compared it to the same sort of produce purchased at the store will notice this difference in the form of flavor.

The moment fruits and vegetables are harvested they begin to break down. This is totally natural. The longer the interval of time is since they were harvested, the greater the amount of decay. Many markets ship in their produce, sometime from great distances. This means that from harvest, to store, to the table, the produce may be up to a couple weeks old.

Many stores get around this by purchasing under ripe fruits and vegetables from their supplier. This allows the produce to either ripen in transit or in the storeroom at the store. The problem is, since the food wasn’t allowed to naturally ripen, it lacks much of the starch, sugars and other substances that give the best flavor to the fruits and vegetables. This is why a store bought tomato tends to taste bland compared to one freshly picked out of the garden.

The benefits of locally grown food don’t end at the far more robust flavor, though. Still tied to freshness, they are also far healthier for the consumer.

Consider that if fruits and vegetables must be cut before they are fully ripe just so they can be shipped to were they are going without rotting, it isn’t just the starches and sugars that can be lacking. Vitamins and minerals will also not be usually found in the concentrations they would be in fully ripened produce.

For instance, a tomato begins to really grow in vitamin C and antioxidants content when it starts to turn red. When the tomato is green, it does contain both, but the vitamin C and antioxidants are in much smaller amounts. This means that tomatoes at the store are healthier for you than not eating tomatoes at all, but not as healthy as they would be if they came from the garden or a local farmer’s market.

Add to that the propensity for large farms to use chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It is less expensive for them, in the long run, to do this. People with gardens or farmers who contribute to local farmer’s markets may also use chemicals, but normally nowhere near in the amounts commonly sprayed on commercial farms. In addition, large-scale farms have access to stronger chemicals than the average gardener or small farm owner has. This adds up to a greater chance that the produce at the store has been treated with harsher chemicals, which cling to the produce, than what can be expected in local produce.

In this respect, healthier doesn’t just mean more vitamins and minerals, it also means less poisons. This is a double benefit.

There is another fantastic benefit of locally grown foods: the cost. The produce is usually far less expensive than what can be purchased in a store. This was explained well by Mr. Jeffries, who contributes yearly to a local farmers market.

“We bought our farm year before last, in early summer. We were delighted that there was already a nice, neat garden in place. All we had to do is water it and take care of it. The problem is that the garden was over an acre in size. That is a lot more than my wife, my two young children, and I could eat, even canning food.

Then we heard about the farmer’s market.

We didn’t want to throw away anything that could be used, so this is what we did. We started at our normal time on the day of the market, 5 am. We did the normal chores, then I spent a few hours picking fresh green beans, cutting cauliflower and broccoli, collecting a few large heads of cabbage, some carrots, and some leaf lettuce. Then my wife and I headed for the farmer’s market, not expecting much, while my sister watched the kids.

Would you believe it? We got there with about 150 pounds of fresh produce, and at the end of 6 hours, we had about 25 pounds left. Money really wasn’t the object, but we made money. I even sold one five-pound head of cabbage to a large family for a quarter, yet the money we made paid for operating the pump for several days. At the same time, the people knew they were getting fresh produce. The last item sold was still less than 12 hours old.

Oh, and the extra 25 pounds? That went to a food bank on our way out of town, for distribution to senior care centers. It was still great stuff, and I couldn’t see throwing it into the compost heap.”

Mr. Jeffries repeated this procedure the following day, only with about three times as much produce, but with the same results. Since then, he has been growing the acre garden every year, funded by sales at the farmer’s market, selling healthier food, helping people, having fun and turning a profit in the process. It also puts fresh vegetables and fruit on his table at no extra expense.

This brings up the last benefit of locally grown food that will be mentioned here. This is one of many local growers. While their profit margin may not be great, most of it goes right back into the local economy. They buy locally. This puts money right back into our own pockets in one way or another.

There are other benefits to using locally grown foods, but these are a few of the most compelling.

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